Russell County Commission votes to waive charges for public information

The Russell County Commission voted 7-0 on Wednesday to waive the costs associated with compiling an open records request from the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.

It is the second time in two weeks the elected body has held a vote regarding the Feb. 27 request for names, salaries and job titles of all county employees. Commissioner Gentry Lee urged County Administrator LeAnn Horne to release the information promptly.

The newspaper received the information late Wednesday afternoon. The commission did not disclose the cost as it took less than a minute to discuss and take the vote.

The commission voted unanimously March 25 to release county employee information to include names and salary.The Ledger-Enquirer made the request to Horne on Feb. 27. Originally, the administrator’s officer only released the information on 11 elected officials, including all seven commissioners, probate judge, revenue commissioner, sheriff and coroner. On March 13, job titles and salaries were released, but not the names of the employees who held those jobs, as required under Alabama’s Open Records Act.

Last month, the newspaper hired attorney Dennis Bailey with the Montgomery, Ala., firm of Rushton, Stakley, Johnston & Garrett to pursue the information. Bailey sent a letter to County Attorney Kenneth Funderburk on March 19 outlining the law and requesting the salary information.

It is not a common practice for public bodies to take a vote on the release of public information, Bailey said Wednesday.

The newspaper requested the same information from the Columbus Consolidated Government and Phenix City. Both responded with the information and provided it with no charge.